New Advice for New Grandparents

Bonnie Baker Cowan | July 7th, 2014
New Advice for New Grandparents

Parenting has changed since we raised our own perfect children. In fact, if you’re a grandparent for the first time, it might be time to brush up on what the parenting trends and philosophies are today. The Internet as well as parenting books and magazines have lots of information and might be a good investment of time if you want to be a supportive parent as well as an essential part of the newborn’s life. Here are some guidelines to follow to give you a head start on the new parenting philosophies and impress your children, the new parents.

Many of us remember the advice to “let a baby cry it out,” when we were new parents, on the premise that picking up the baby every time she cried would “spoil her.” Happily, that theory is a myth. The truth is a baby under the age of four months has not developed any self-soothing skills. In fact, picking up a baby when she cries teaches her that a parent or grandparent is always there to take care of her. Babies respond positively to touch and especially skin contact. Babies thrive when they are held close to a warm body and can hear a beating heart. So go ahead and pick up that baby and cuddle as often as you want—if you can pry the baby out of the parents’ arms, that is.

Sleeping is another parenting issue that has changed. Not only are there safety regulations about crib dimensions and new guidelines about bumper pads and duvet covers, there are also new standards about sleeping positions and rituals. If you were a parent who put your baby to sleep on his tummy, throw that advice out. The safest position for a baby to sleep is on his back. In fact, studies have linked other positions to higher rates of SIDS. We may also have been given advice that a baby sleeps best in a dark, completely silent room. Today’s theories suggest that babies sleep just as well with a bit of light and some background noise. In fact, if they become accustomed to a little noise and light, they may be more apt to sleep in any situation (such as grandma’s house). We might also have been told to change a wet diaper in the middle of the night, but today, diapers are very absorbent and urine is sterile, so there’s no need to change a wet diaper. Poopy diapers, however, should be changed, especially for baby girls, to prevent a bladder infection.

Feeding rituals for babies are different now too. Most babies start out with breast milk, and if we thought babies should be fed on a strict schedule, that theory has also been debunked. A baby has an internal hunger monitor to tell her when she’s hungry and when she’s full.  Putting a baby on a strict feeding schedule may actually affect eating habits negatively. We also believed when raising our children that a little rice cereal in the night-time bottle would help the baby sleep longer. In fact, studies have shown that introducing solid food too early may be linked to obesity in later life. One positive change regarding feeding is that bottles and nipples don’t have to be sterilized religiously after every use. They should be sterilized as soon as they are taken out of the package, but after that, soap and water is fine.

Bathing rituals are much more relaxed for babies these days. They only need a bath every two or three days, unless of course there’s a dirty diaper in the mix or it’s just a relaxing routine at the end of the day. They do need moisturizer for their skin afterwards and they do need a little bit of sunscreen during sunlight hours if they’re outdoors, especially for exposed areas such as their faces and hands.

Besides boning up on the new parenting guidelines to be a savvy grandparent, being helpful to the parents will endear you to them during the first few weeks after the baby’s arrival and secure your place as a thoughtful parent and grandparent. Sometimes, new parents need their own time to bond with the baby and reconnect with each other, so give them their space and time. But they will appreciate your availability to run errands, and filling their fridge and freezer with prepared meals and healthy snacks will make their new schedule with baby more manageable.